Contax IIA with Tri-X and some thoughts

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by carbon_dragon, Sep 19, 2018.

  1. I'm pretty sure there was a Contarex version but I'm not sure if there are any modern Zeiss lenses with that design. it's funny about the lens shade. I have a voigtlander 15mm lens that has a shade!
  2. AJG


    There was a Contarex version which required the mirror to be locked up and the use of a separate finder. I have a Voigtlander 21/f/4 for the Contax that has a "shade" that is about 3/16" in length. I'm not sure how much it accomplishes, but it definitely doesn't vignette.
    carbon_dragon likes this.
  3. Zeiss had to work around two key Leica patens: the LTM lens mount rangefinder coupling, and their constant acceleration shutter design. The Contax transfers focus information through the rotation of the helical, rather than by a wheel on the lens cam. The Contax has a constant-velocity shutter.

    The Contax also has German over-engineering in spades. The Leica screw mounts were simple and elegant, and "precise enough."

    On the other hand, Zeiss had an iron-clad patent on the f/1.5 Sonnar design, which is why Leica had to license the Xenon/Summarit design, which wasn't as good. Zeiss also had an iron-clad patent on hard lens coatings. Thus Leica started with "soft" lens coatings.
  4. Well I'm planning to wrap up the testing this morning with the 21 and the 135. I got out my bulk loaders. turns out I have run myself out of TriX though I may have a few rolls in the freezer. I have a lot of Bulk rolled Tech Pan though. It's been sitting in a closet at 70 degrees though mostly so I'm trying it today to see how it goes. I'll have to take a tripod though and I'm not good with carry capacity these days. Gosh who writes these awful instruction sheets for bulk loaders?
  5. I'd say that the Contax was more designed to be used on a tripod, whereas the Leica was designed to be used hand-held.
  6. Robert Capa used a pair of Contax II cameras with 5cm F2 Sonnars on D-Day.The Contax II can be quite fast to use once you get used to the focus wheel, same with a Nikon RF. I know one photojournalist that used Nikon RF's up through the 1980s, he could frame, focus, and shoot all one-handed.

    [​IMG]Contax_Sonnar_Test_Modern_Photo_A by fiftyonepointsix, on Flickr
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2018
  7. Ok, just a few more pictures, this time with the 21mm lens and then with the 135mm lens. This rounds out the list. Here I'm using Kodak Tech Pan film (sitting in my closet, not ideally, but I put it in the fridge now. It was in a bulk loader). I also used a tripod this time! Tough to carry it along, but with Tech Pan at ISO 25 what was my choice, right?






    charles_escott_new likes this.
  8. What developer are you using?
    Like you, I have a 100' roll left over from 20 years ago in my bulk loader.
    You have much better contrast control than I ever did.
  9. On the Tech Pan I used Technidol. Still have some left.
  10. I should take my IIa out and use it!
  11. As a matter of fact I did. Nice little game. I haven't had great experiences with the other Tiny Epic games, though Tiny Epic Galaxies is OK. I like this one though. The little weapons you attach to the meeples is cool but kind of meaningless given you have the cards too.
  12. Great series of posts on the Contax II. When I want to have some fun with old film, I'll load up my "No Name" Kiev with a Contax mount 50 Nikon 1.4 lens. Very easy to focus in low light and the setup is heavy enough for steady holding. I use it with a Softie shutter release button as my Kiev has a rough shutter release. I've been asked
    "what kind of Nikon is that"? Very few people have seen a Contax II let alone a Kiev like mine. I like the Nikon at 1.4 as it is good in the center, but not in the outer 2/3. Thanks Carbon for posting your Contax image series.
  13. You’re welcome. Bear in mind that Nikon didn’t copy the Contax lenses completely enough (supposedly) to focus correctly on Contax cameras. I’ve heard different stories, but supposedly, focusing is not totally accurate, and Kievs are copies of Contaxes, not Nikons. Do a little googling to see if this matters to you. In the meantime, from what I understand, Nikon cameras were fusions of Leica and Contax. They looked like Contaxes but inside they were more Leica Like. Great cameras though. Note that the Kievs were copies of Contax IIs and IIIs prewar which have a slightly different internal architecture. The Contax IIs (and the Kievs) have the wheel such that you have to arch your finger over the viewfinder window, but they have a greater rangefinder base distance. The IIAs have the wheel on the outside of the window so you don’t need to do the “contax arch.” Also the Contax IIs and Kievs have deeper penetrating 35mm lenses which don’t work on the IIAs (they damage the shutter). The later 35mm lenses do work on the earlier Contax cameras though.

    And even changing lenses requires some care. You have to set the lens on infinity before lining up the red dots (often 3, 2 on the lens, 1 on the camera) and then gently sliding the lens onto the bayonette. Makes me a little nervous. Leica IIs and IIIs have their ideosyncrasies too, but the Leica Ms are ever so much easier to use (which is why there are still Leica Ms produced today).

    Contax cameras take a certain dedication to use. I just got my 2nd body back from a refurbish (they do seem to need a lot of service) and I planned to shoot it today, but my location fell through. Will try again after Thanksgiving.
  14. Your comments are appreciated as the Kiev has a whole different feel than a Leica LTM or M. The Nikon lens has a different focusing pitch that I am guessing matches the Leica LTM pitch rate as the Nikon lens was also made in LTM. The Kiev came with a 50 Carl Zeiss Jena f2 that lacks f stop clicks and I still need a lens hood. I'm very careful with the Kiev as Henry the Contax guru won't touch them. Very solid camera and so easy to load with the removable back.
  15. The Nikkor 5cm F1.4, assuming the lens and camera are both within spec, should front-focus on the Kiev and Contax when used wide-open at F1.4. The Nikon uses a Shim, it can be reduced to reduce the front focus. OR- since the focus shift of the Nikon is towards infinity, stopping down to about F2.8 will match the point of best focus with the Kiev/Contax.
  16. I don't use my 5 cm 1.4 Nikkor-S on my Contax IIa. It only gets used on the SP. I never use my Zeiss Sonnar f/1.5 on my SP either. The Contax cameras can not properly focus Nikkors that are 5 CM or longer (except to infinity). Nikon did make 85mm, 105mm & 135mm Nikkors specifically for the Contax. They are marked with a 'C' on the barrel - like my 105mm Nikkor:


    I also have the 135mm Nikkor for Contax.

    Wide angles are another story. I use my 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor and a Voigtlander 25mm Nikon S lenses on my Contax IIa and they focus ok.
  17. I modified one of my Nikon S2 bodies to properly focus with Zeiss lenses, keep a Zeiss Sonnar on it. When received- the helical was not aligned properly and was missing one of the shims under the screw that fastens it to the body. Since I had to reshim the helical anyway, I set it for the Sonnar. Once the shim was set, I calibrated the RF for the Sonnar. It is accurate enough to use a 13.5cm F4 Sonnar across range.

    With the wide-angle Nikkors, I've set the shim for a 3.5cm F2.5 to better align with the Contax- did this for another person. I also set a J-12 shim for the Nikon, it was way-off when received for the Contax. So- again, had to reshim it anyway and did it for the Nikon.
  18. AJG


    I only have Contax bodies, no Nikons, but I have used Nikon RF 35 f/2.5 and 28 f/3.5 lenses and a Voigtlander 21 f/4 without any focusing issues. I also have Nikon 105 and 135 RF lenses that are marked with the "C" on the focusing ring which likewise focus correctly at both distance and close up. I'm sure that as the focal length increases and the maximum aperture increases the problem with focusing will become more obvious.

Share This Page